Include a Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Screening in Your Healthy Lifestyle
Experts advise eating a well-balanced diet with fiber, fruits and vegetables and doing 150 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly for good health.
You still may be at risk for colorectal cancer even if you eat healthy foods, exercise regularly and don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) released new data in mid-January listing colorectal cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in men and the second-leading cause of cancer death in women younger than 50.
CRC diagnosis in adults 40-49 has increased by nearly 15 percent in the past decade. Annually, about 18,000 CRC cases are diagnosed in people younger than 50. That’s about 49 new cases per day.
“The continuous sharp increase in colorectal cancer in younger Americans is alarming,” said Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, ACS senior vice president of surveillance and health equity science, regarding the new data.
Researchers have not determined why more young adults are being diagnosed with this disease. Scientists speculate the cause could be changes in lifestyle habits that originated with individuals born around 1950.
If you’re 45 or older, include a colorectal cancer screening for your well-being.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
The ACS estimates about 106,590 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer and about 46,220 with rectal cancer in 2024.
Colorectal cancer almost always begins as a polyp. A polyp is a small cluster of cells in the lining of the colon (large intestine) or rectum.
Many CRC cases have no symptoms or warning signs until the cancer has advanced.
In Healio, Seth A. Gross, MD, advises people of any age to consult a healthcare provider immediately if they “notice rectal bleeding, abdominal pain or change in bowel habits” and any of the following symptoms:
- Blood in stool
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained anemia
Timely Screening May Help Prevent Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is preventable. As CRC cases rise in young adults, more than any diet or exercise regimen, a timely screening offers the best prevention.
“We need to halt and reverse this trend by increasing uptake of screening, including awareness of non-invasive stool tests with follow-up care, in people 45-49 years,” Dr. Jemal said in the ACS news release.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults who are at average risk start screening for CRC at 45.
Experts recommend getting screened earlier if you have a family history of the disease or a history of precancerous polyps.
“Up to one-third of people diagnosed before 50 have a family history or genetic predisposition and should begin screening before age 45 years,” Dr. Jemal said.
Regardless of your age, if you have digestive system issues, visit your doctor.
Several screening options are available, but colonoscopy is the only screening method that can detect and prevent colorectal cancer. During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist looks for polyps that are cancerous or may develop into cancer. Your doctor can remove polyps in the same procedure.
If you choose to take a stool test and you receive a positive result, you need a follow-up colonoscopy to determine the cause.
For patients 45 and older, most insurance plans cover a colonoscopy. In most cases, there should be no out-of-pocket costs (such as copays or deductibles) for CRC screening tests. Call your health insurance company to confirm you are eligible for a screening colonoscopy.
If you are 45 or older, getting screened is critical to detecting and even preventing colorectal cancer. Talk with your doctor about scheduling your screening.